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LaHood Lies Down In Laying Down Electronics Guidelines

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On: Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 3:01PM | By: Chris Weiss

LaHood Lies Down In Laying Down Electronics Guidelines

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood hasn't hidden the fact that he doesn't like in-vehicle distractions. Unfortunately, you'd never know LaHood doesn't like in-vehicle distractions based upon the toothless guidelines the Department of Transportation issued earlier this month.

The new guidelines, which were released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are voluntary standards for automakers. The guidelines lay out some types of in-vehicle electronics that the Department says should be disabled while the vehicle is in motion. Those things include visual text messaging, visual manual Internet browsing, visual manual social networking and displays of more than 30 characters of text unrelated to driving. The department says those features should only be active when the car is in park or for the passenger only with no driver visibility.

Frankly, I'm disappointed. In the past, Secretary LaHood has been a little clearer, saying that there's no reason to have things like Facebook in the car, period. But these new guidelines only deal with visual distractions, and not the growing number of in-vehicle systems that integrate audio iterations of social media and text messaging. Studies have shown that things like telephone calls are distracting whether on a manual device like a cell phone or on an in-vehicle audio system. I'd have to think that due to their incessant numbers and totally impertinent to anything nature, social network updates and text messages would prove even more distracting than phone calls.

BMW inadvertently showed just how annoying and distracting in-vehicle social networking systems are in a recent commercial. The commercial is one of the most annoying pieces of video we've seen all year because of a personified version of in-vehicle social network reading. The passenger blurts out all kinds of silly, random facts - the types of things that you shouldn't be concerning yourself with while driving - and it's enough to make you want to tear his nostrils off.

The Department said that the guidelines are Phase I. Phase II might address aftermarket and portable electronics, and Phase III might deal with voice command electronics. In the meantime, not only are these guidelines voluntary, but they're totally incomplete. In fact, some of them like 'no Internet browsing' are so obvious that you have to wonder what it is we have a Department of Transportation for.

Rob Reynolds executive director of advocacy group Focus Driven mimicked these thoughts in tellingInside Line that he believes the guidelines are incomplete because they don't address cognitive distractions (i.e. voice-based Facebooking). He said: "Apparently, they're laying down in the street, saying 'This will happen. Let's help people do this in a way we think might be safer.' It's like coming up with a safer cigarette. That doesn't work."

If you think the new guidelines are the vehicular version of a safer cigarette, first read the NHTSA's press release - or the full report if you're really interested. Then let the Department of Transportation know what you think. The Department is holding a 60-day comment period on the guidelines and will host hearings in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. next month.



Sami18 | 11:32AM (Tue, Feb 28, 2012)

i think he should be more worried about present problems than future problems. What he should be worrying about is texting and driving and people on the phone while driving, basically this is called DISTRACTED DRIVING and this issue needs to be addressed instead of social media technology in cars. This causes more accidents in the US than anything.

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